Sunday 21 January 2018
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Start

Brighton Excelsior CC had 2 riders in the iconic 2015 Paris Brest Paris audax, an event that requires superhuman effort to reach the start line, let alone the finish.

After 2 successful attempts, Bob missed out on the finish line this time but Simon, our Australian member, made it; a great achievement, which he's backed up with an emotive piece of cycling writing. Chapeau sir!

The Build Up

This was my second PBP. In 2011 I was riding with a friend who had done it before, and he was keen to get under the 60 hour mark which I managed to do, coming in with a 59h 31m. Coming into the 2015 PBP I felt that given ‘fair’ weather conditions, good training  and the right mindset I might be able to knock a few hours off that time, although with these events it is very difficult to predict exactly how the mind and body will deal with the stresses of 1200ks and very little sleep.

A few days out from the start, the weather was looking reasonable - only a small chance of rain & not too hot - and I was feeling pretty good, so I set a couple of goals to aim for. First was to try and get into Brest in under 24 hours, second was to get through to Loudeac on the return leg (782ks) before having any sleep. If I managed this then I might be able to achieve a 55 hour ride. Why 55 hours? Well I am 55 years old – and it seemed like as good a reason as any! 

There are 3 start times that help manage the 6,000+ participants; The 80h group which starts in 15 minute waves from 4pm on the Sunday afternoon, the 90h and largest group which starts from 5pm on the Sunday evening, and an 84h group which start at 5am on the following morning.

Outbound

I was away at 4.30 on the Sunday afternoon with the 80h group, and was trying to stay out of trouble; there are a number of accidents in the first 40-50ks as the pace is pretty quick and there are large groups of riders with mixed abilities. The first 100ks were very quick with speeds sitting around the 40kph mark at the front of the 4.30 (or ‘C’ Group). There is a food & water stop at Mortagne (138ks) on the way out, and the first "Brevet" time control is Villaines (221ks). I did not hang around long, I was carrying enough food to get me though the first 400+ks so just filled the bidons, stamped the brevet card – and was back on the bike. We were now getting into the first night and the 300k mark rolled past in a bit under 10 hours, on through the Fougeres control and onto Tinteniac with dawn breaking on the stage into Loudeac (449ks). I had a drop bag here with spare light batteries, food & some extra clothes the first night had been pretty cold with temperatures down to 6-7 degrees C, but I decided to  push on as I anticipated I would be back through Loudeac on the return trip by about midnight – and should be ok until then.

I didn’t realise it at the time, but the next 330ks back to Loudeac were going to be the toughest of the ride. Not far out of Loudeac my left Achilles tendon started to become very painful – probably a result of the fast pace, lack of rest and the cold night. I could no longer hold on to groups on the climbs, and spent most of the time riding solo and nursing my Achilles. Coming into Brest I was beginning to think it could be the end of my ride. I took a 30 minute break and decided to push on and see if I could ride through the pain and get to Loudeac where I had some liniment that might help relieve the pain.

The Return

I reached Carhaix (703ks) at dusk and rearranged my kit, putting on the warm gear I had, and my reflective vest...and topping up the pockets with food, and rolled out into the dusk. About 15 kilometres further on at a ‘secret’ control  - they have one on each of the outbound and return legs -  I discovered that I had left my brevet card, cash and a couple of other things in the musette bag I was using at controls, hanging on a fence pole back at the Carhaix control! So, back I went to Carhaix in the gathering dark where fortunately my musette was still hanging on the fence pole at the control, and back again to the secret control – adding an extra 30-odd ks onto the ride and pushing me a bit later into a very cold night before I could get some warmer clothes and replacement batteries. My lighting held out and I rolled into Loudeac having ridden a bit over 800ks in 34 hours – I was cold, exhausted and hungry and most likely outside the time window to achieve 55 hours. My Achilles was still painfully objecting to the demands being placed on it. I decided my best option was some food & rest. Following my first hot meal of the ride I lay on the cold tiled floor of the cafeteria a promptly passed out...

End in Sight

Simon at Finish PBP
Simon at the Finish: Rule #47

...waking with a start 90 minutes later, I rolled over, waking again after 30 minutes. It was 5am and I decided that with some luck and fair winds I still might be able to make a 55 hour time, but first I decided to check out my Achilles – which miraculously had completely recovered in the couple of hours I had been off the bike. I quickly changed out my batteries, put on some warm clothes and rolled out of Loudeac trying not to think too much about the 450ks still left to ride. I managed to pick up a small group of strong riders that I would spend most of the following 20 hours with - as we were all hoping that we might finish the ride by midnight. It was a great day, sunny but not too hot and the group worked well together making each of the stages pass quickly. Just taking it one stage at a time; first through Tinteniac (a quick wash and clean knicks), then Fougeres (a jambon beurre baguette & flan from the baker in town), Villanes,  Mortagne  and finally the last control at Dreux.  Despite the growing fatigue we stayed focused and worked hard to stay in touch with a midnight finish, but that spirit was tested and sapped by a gentle but persistent head/cross wind and the encroaching dusk. By the time we rolled out of Dreux, we were content to ease off a little and reflect on the ride and achievement of another PBP. The conversation volume went up a notch and the focus on relentless time-chasing eased, and it was in many ways the very best way to share the last 60ks of this remarkable event.

 Simon's Ride (In French with English subtitles)

Contrôle

Km

Temps

Passage

Moyenne Tronçon

Moyenne Totale

Checkpoint

Km

Elapsed Time

Actual Time

Average Speed: Stage

Average Speed: Overall

START

0

 

16/08 16:31

   

VILLAINES

221

06:53

16/08 23:24

32.1 km/h

32.1 km/h

FOUGERES

310

10:13

17/08 02:44

26.7 km/h

30.3 km/h

TINTENIAC

364

12:29

17/08 05:00

23.8 km/h

29.1 km/h

LOUDEAC

449

15:50

17/08 08:21

25.3 km/h

28.3 km/h

CARHAIX

525

19:26

17/08 11:57

21.1 km/h

27 km/h

BREST

618

23:44

17/08 16:15

21.6 km/h

26 km/h

CARHAIX

703

28:28

17/08 20:59

17.9 km/h

24.6 km/h

LOUDEAC

782

34:13

18/08 02:44

13.7 km/h

22.8 km/h

TINTENIAC

867

39:51

18/08 08:22

15 km/h

21.7 km/h

FOUGERES

921

42:17

18/08 10:48

22.1 km/h

21.7 km/h

VILLAINES

1009

46:32

18/08 15:03

20.7 km/h

21.6 km/h

MORTAGNE

1090

50:07

18/08 18:38

22.6 km/h

21.7 km/h

DREUX

1165

53:42

18/08 22:13

20.9 km/h

21.6 km/h

FINISH

1230

57:06

19/08 01:37

19.1 km/h

21.5 km/h

 

Calendar

Sun Jan 21 @09:00 -
Sunday Road Rides
Sun Jan 21 @10:30 - 12:00PM
Elevenses: Pop Up Cafe
Tue Jan 23 @18:30 - 08:00PM
Cyclocross Training
Sat Jan 27 @09:00 - 12:00PM
Youth Mountain Biking - AOAC
Sat Jan 27 @10:00 - 12:00PM
Adult Mountain Biking
Sun Jan 28 @09:00 -
Sunday Road Rides
Tue Jan 30 @18:30 - 08:00PM
Cyclocross Training
Sat Feb 03 @09:00 - 12:00PM
Mountain Biking - Stanmer Park
Sat Feb 03 @10:00 - 12:00PM
Adult Mountain Biking
Sun Feb 04 @09:00 -
Sunday Road Rides
Sat Feb 10 @09:00 - 12:00PM
Youth Mountain Biking - AOAC
Sat Feb 10 @10:00 - 12:00PM
Adult Mountain Biking
Sun Feb 11 @09:00 -
Sunday Road Rides
Sat Feb 17 @09:00 - 12:00PM
Youth Mountain Biking - AOAC
Sat Feb 17 @10:00 - 12:00PM
Adult Mountain Biking
Sat Feb 17 @15:30 -
Velodrome Calshot Park
Sun Feb 18 @09:00 -
Sunday Road Rides